Category Archives: Design

Working Close To Home

Counsilman-Hunsaker was founded in 1970 in St. Louis, Missouri and while we are a national company with offices in four states and projects across the U.S., St. Louis will always be home. This summer three of those “hometown” projects were opened for business. Today we are going to highlight one of them. While our project management team takes pride in every project, the O’Fallon Alligator Creek Aquatic Center project in particular is close to the heart of our president Scott Hester.

O’Fallon Alligator Creek Aquatic Center

Scott Hester calls the City of O’Fallon, MO home and when a call to develop a community advocacy team to lead local efforts at garnering support for the project, he happily agreed.  This group comprised of 8 O’Fallon residents raised awareness on the positive impacts that aquatics and recreation opportunities can have on their community.  This group came to be known as the O’Fallon Parks and Action Team (OPAT) and met bi-weekly for nearly 6 months planning and strategizing how to initially educate the community on the proposed Alligator Creek Aquatic Center expansion.  So often there is an under appreciation of the value that providing a community with aquatic opportunities.  From swim lessons to swim team, the positive impact that aquatic experiences can have on its’ residence is immeasurable.

Once the community was well informed, it then came the OPAT mission to initiate support for the passage of a ½ cent sales tax proposition that would be used to fund the project.  Through many public meetings and community outreach efforts, the residence of O’Fallon successfully passed the bond issue with an approximate 60% yes vote.  Upon passage of the bond issue the city hired a team of architects and engineers for completion of the facility’s design, and the project was competitively bid within budget with the support of a Construction Management team.  In May of 2018 the newly expanded Alligator Creek was opened to the public and 2 weeks later Scott’s children participated in the first swim meet at the aquatic center.

About the Aquatic Center

The City of O’Fallon Alligator Aquatic Center was originally built in 1969 and included a competition pool. While the Aquatic Center has undergone numerous renovations, including an expansion in 2001 adding a second Leisure Pool, this is the biggest renovation and expansion to date. While the aquatic center still includes the existing two pools, the addition of a lazy river and sprayground have doubled the aquatic centers size. The existing pools also receive a nice facelift with new paint and added features that every family will enjoy. The Aquatic Center includes:

Competition Pool

  • 13,000 ft² including separate waterslide plunge area
  • Three waterslides including and open and enclosed body slide as well as a dropslide
  • One-meter springboard diving

Leisure Pool

  • 1,200 sq. ft. pool with zero depth entry
  • Vortex
  • NEW expanded open water swimming area
  • NEW stair entry
  • NEW Multi-play structure
  • NEW Water basketball and volleyball
  • NEW Waterwalk

NEW Lazy River

  • 600 ft. long lazy river
  • Zero depth entry
  • Large underwater bench area

NEW Sprayground

  • Spray features for children of all ages
  • Ability to be operational while the Aquatic Center is closed

If you want more information on the O’Fallon Alligator Creek Aquatic Center or an inside look into the park visit our friends at O’Fallon’s Facebook page (tag City of O’Fallon – Government) or check out this video highlighting the facility


All Stories

Designing for the Generations – X, Y & Z

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Demographics in many ways define the social structure of a nation and it is very useful to understand the generations when designing a multi-generational aquatic facility.  Generation X is the generation born after the Western post WWII baby boom and as a generation they have the following characteristics:

  • Independent
  • Work towards high-quality end results
  • Productivity
  • Balance between work and life – Work to live, not live to work
  • Flexible work hours/job sharing is appealing
  • See themselves as a marketable commodity
  • Technically competent

Generation X is the mature family market and early empty-nesters.  In their aquatic experiences they desire having quality family experiences so amenities like wave pools, lazy rivers, and family water slides all appeal to this generation.  Due to their independent and competitive nature, they also enjoy the competitive aspects of swimming and due to their continued aging they also realize that after competing they enjoy the leisure and social aspects of the aquatic environment which can involve hot tubs and swim up bars.

Generation Y is the generation of the Millennial.  There are no precise dates for this generation, but typically they are defined as those born between the early 1980’s into the early 2000’s.  Generation Y is defined by the following characteristics:

  • Ambitious
  • Family orientated
  • Technically savvy – the first to grow up with the internet
  • Experiential in nature
  • Team players
  • Communicators – social media
  • Collaborative in nature
  • Like to be loved

Generation Y, or the Millennial generation, is the generation of single adults and young families.  This generation being young and experiential in nature like thrill rides.  The more aggressive the ride, the better it is loved.  Due to their experiential nature, aquatic rides such as the Flow-rider are a hit as they can continually improve their performance over time and they can also change the experience as their skill set advances from a body board to a surf board.  Team sports that can be played in water ranging from volleyball to underwater hockey are enjoyed by this generation.  Social settings such as wave pools and rivers also appeal to Generation Y.

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Young families enjoy the exploration and discovery of aquatic play features in shallow water.   Families bond while participating in discovery experiences and aquatic facilities can provide many avenues for this experience to occur.  One of the most important aquatic activities for young families is the learn to swim programs for the next generation.

Generation Z is loosely defined as the people born after Generation Y.  This includes all who are children or young adults.  This generation is defined by the following characteristics:

  • Technically savvy – smart phones, tablets, electronics
  • Socially aware
  • Self-starting, entrepreneurial in nature
  • Prudent
  • Socially connected
  • Want to impact the world

With the explosion of social media in the last number of years, generation Z is entirely connected both socially and electronically.  This allows them to share their lives either in person or digitally with their friends.  Hanging out and sharing experiences with friends is extremely important for this generation.  Therefore almost everything that encompasses recreational aquatics is desirable from this generation.  As a digitally connected generation, videos of activities, race times, etc. are desirable and loaded onto social media to connect to those that are not present.

The great news about designing multi-generational facilities is that there is significant overlap in the types of activities desired even though the generations may be participating for different reasons.  Knowing the characteristics of each generation allows for a design and programming approach to aquatic facilities that promotes experiential activities for all generations and provides for meaningful competitive, recreational and social outlets for the community.







How wide do our competition swimming lanes need to be?


This is a question that I get quite often during initial planning meetings for a new competition pool.  The first thing to determine is what will be the highest level of swimming competition hosted at your facility.  Will it be a large international competition (FINA) or a regional type event for National Championships or age group meets for Local Swimming Committees (USA Swimming)?  Will it host college (NCAA) or high school (NFHS) swimming competition? Once this is decided, we can determine the MINIMUM lane width required by that governing body.

There are several additional items to understand as it pertains to lane width.  First, lane width is measured from center line to center line of the floating lane ropes.  These floating lane ropes typically have either 4 in or 6 in diameter floating disks placed on a cable stretching the length of the pool.  The cables attach to anchors in the pool wall.  The lane width dimension is therefore taken from one cable (center line of the floating lane rope) to the adjacent cable or from center line of the anchor to anchor.  The second item to understand is buffer lanes.  These are small “lanes” outside of the first and last lanes.  Buffer lanes are not used as swimming lanes.  They are typically between 9 in and 18 in wide and create a “buffer” between the outside competition swimming lanes and the pool wall.  Psychologically, the use of a buffer lane is beneficial for competitive swimmers in the outside lanes so that they do not feel like they are at a competitive disadvantage by swimming against the outside pool wall.



The requirements for each of the governing bodies are summarized below:


Lanes shall be at least 2.5 m wide with two spaces of at least 0.2 m outside of the first and last lanes

USA Swimming

NC – Lane width of 2.5 m (8 ft 2 ½ in) from center line to center line of the lane dividers with approximately 0.45 m (1 ft 6 in) of additional open water outside lanes 1 and 8 (or 10)

LSC – Minimum lane width for competitive swimming shall be 7 ft (2.13 m)


Long-Course Swimming

  1. For facilities built after September 1, 1996 – 9 ft wide lanes with additional width outside lanes one and eight
  2. For existing facilities – 7 ft wide lanes with additional width outside lanes one and eight

Short-Course Swimming

  1. For facilities built after September 1, 1996
    1. Short Course Yards – 7 ft wide lanes with additional width outside lanes one and eight
    2. Short Course Meters – 7 ft wide lanes with additional width outside lanes one and eight
  2. For existing facilities
    1. Short Course Yards – 6 ft wide lanes
    2. Short Course Meters – 6 ft wide lanes


The width of lanes shall be a minimum of 7 ft (2.13 m).  The two lanes next to the side walls may be wider; in such pools, outside lane markers are recommended

In summary, the minimum lane width shall meet the requirement of the governing body that will have jurisdiction over the meets that you wish to host.  Lane widths typically range from 7 ft to 9 ft wide.  When Counsilman-Hunsaker designs a new competition pool, we strive to maximize the lane width that will fit within the pool while providing buffer lanes; thus, creating the fastest pool possible.



Middle Management

I’ve heard the world of aquatics described by my aquatic professional colleagues across the country as multifaceted, ever-changing, demanding, sophisticated, rewarding and fun. I agree with all these descriptors and because there are so many descriptors, aquatic professionals must remain proactive and constantly think about ways to change, evolve and improve their operation to ensure the safety of their guests and the success of their operation.  One of the ways to go about this change is for aquatic operators to see the value of their middle management team members, head lifeguards, supervisors and leads.

Every aquatic facility should develop and implement an aquatic supervisor training program that adequately teaches part-time and full-time supervisors the demands and importance of their job. When you see an aquatic supervisor sitting on the job, scrolling through their mobile phone, reading a book or doing anything other than actively walking their facility and supervising their team members, the need exists for a supervisor training program at that facility. Unfortunately, I see the above-mentioned behaviors far too often when visiting aquatic facilities.

During my time as an aquatic director, I had an experience that served to change my approach to aquatics operations forever. It happened at the end of a busy weekend at the beginning of the summer, when, except for one individual, my lifeguard team members and I started to clean the facility. That individual just sat on a bench watching everyone else work. When one of my part-time supervisors noticed him and asked, “What are you doing?” without skipping a beat he replied, “I’m training to be a manager.” While he responded in a somewhat snarky tone, the truth behind the comment was startling. From his limited time working under the supervisors that I had hired and trained (not very well apparently), he viewed them as lazy and complacent. And, he thought that if he stayed around long enough, then he might be promoted to supervisor, and he could act just like them.

That moment, I knew that something had to change, and I went to work creating a custom, weekend-long, supervisor training program that encompassed not only the ins and outs of their position and daily responsibilities, but also the “why” behind those responsibilities. Merely training my supervisors on how to do everything would not be enough, I had to train them on the importance of those things. The culture of our operations and the engagement and productivity of our supervisor team immediately skyrocketed, evidenced by our lifeguard and guest services retention rates and lifeguard audit scores. Through this process, I came to the following three conclusions:

  • The culture of your aquatics operation depends on you developing a great one.
  • The success of implementing your culture depends on middle management.
  • As Sasha Mateer from Deep River Waterpark likes to say, “Great lifeguards don’t always make great supervisors.”


Practical and Efficient Design Considerations – Swimming Pool Mechanical Rooms

To the untrained eye, swimming pool design may seem limited to the obvious, visual items: pool structure, spray features, waterslides, etc.  While these items are certainly important, the true ‘meat and bones’ of a swimming pool is contained within the mechanical room.   Pool mechanical rooms house the pumps, filters, heaters, chemical treatment systems, secondary disinfection systems, and many other items that are vital to the operation of a swimming pool.  The proper design of a pool mechanical room can drastically improve operations and ultimately extend the life of the facility.

Undersized mechanical rooms are the most common problem we see in preliminary pool design.  As mentioned above, the entire pool recirculation system, including all equipment and hundreds of feet of piping, is housed within the mechanical room.  Each piece of equipment must be strategically placed to provide ample space for day-to-day operation and routine maintenance.  Local codes and manufacturer guidelines also play a large role in dictating where equipment can be placed and how much surrounding “open” space must be provided.  As a general rule of thumb, the mechanical space should be about an eighth of the size of the pool water surface area.  While a good starting point, this number can greatly fluctuate depending on the project type and size.  For instance, smaller pools typically require mechanical spaces twice the size of the pool surface area.   In addition to the pool size, the type and quantity of pool equipment may greatly affect the proper mechanical room space that is needed.

While it may appear that pool mechanical rooms are a congested jumble of piping and equipment, in actuality, these are typically well thought out spaces.  Often times when designing the layout and configuration of a mechanical room, it is best to imagine the path that pool water takes as it makes its way through the room. As the pool water first enters the mechanical room, it will pass through the hair and lint strainer before making its way to the recirculation pump.  It is common practice in the commercial pool industry to house the pool pumps in a recessed pit to allow for the use of flooded suction pumps.  From there, the water will travel to the filtering system, secondary disinfection system (if provided), heating system, and finally to the chemical injection points before returning to the pool.  In order to avoid extra piping, fittings, and potentially larger pumps, it is important to layout the pool equipment in an efficient manner that does not require the piping to loop back and forth while inside the mechanical room.

Early on in the design phase, measures can be taken to assist the future pool operator with day-to-day operations and routine maintenance inside the mechanical room.  First and foremost, a work station should be provided near the pool’s chemical controller.  This work station, generally comprised of a small table and a chair, is typically where the operator will test the chemical makeup of the pool water. In an effort to assist with general cleaning of the mechanical room, it is good practice to design for concrete housekeeping pads underneath the filters, heaters, pumps, and any other large piece of equipment.  Keep in mind, many of these items will likely need to be replaced from time to time so it is crucial to plan ahead for these events.  At least one set of double doors providing access into the mechanical room should be provided for the replacement of the pool filters.  To assist with removal of the pumps, it is recommended that a steel beam and hoist system is provided above the pump pit.  Additionally, designing for removable railings around the pump pit will make for an easier pump replacement when the time comes.

Finally, when it comes to pool chemicals, special attention and extra precautions must be taken.  The pool chemicals can be the most dangerous items in the mechanical room if not properly cared for.  While typically not required by code, it is highly recommended to store pool chemicals in separate, well ventilated rooms.  If not properly exhausted, acid and chlorine fumes will attack and corrode nearby metallic items.  When combined, the fumes can create chlorine gas which is potentially be lethal to humans.  To avoid mixing of chemical fumes, each of the chemical rooms should be separately exhausted to the exterior.  It is important to note that both chlorine and acid fumes are heavier than air, therefore, these fumes must be removed from a low point in each of the rooms.  In addition to mechanical ventilation, each of the chemical rooms are typically required to be fire rated.  The quantities and types of the pool chemicals used will dictate the extent of the fire rating that is required by code.  During the design phase, it is critical to check the local building and fire codes to ensure compliance.